The Yellow Jackets start the district portion of their schedule with the same results from last season but in a much different place health-wise.
As Denison hopes to improve on its finish in the standings that saw the program miss the playoffs on a fourth-place tie-breaker with Lake Dallas, the injury bug has taken another bite out of the Jackets backfield.
In both contests the offensive depth has been tested and those filling in have performed well. But any team with an injured quarterback and running back would have concerns at any point of the season, let alone right when the games count the most.
Even with that happening, Denison (1-1) will look to get things going in the right direction with a trip to take on Frisco Lebanon Trail (2-0) in the District 7-5A (II) opener at Toyota Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday.
The status of sophomore running back Jadarian Price could change on a daily basis. But that of senior quarterback Zaelin Wimbish won’t be altered for at least a month.
Wimbish suffered a left shoulder injury in the fourth quarter against Burleson Centennial last week and will be out four-to-six weeks, ruining a promising start to his first year starting behind center after moving from two years at receiver and safety.
“His development as a quarterback had continued to rise. A great leader for us. He’s been at practice helping out,” Denison head coach Chad Rogers said. “When he comes back he’ll be a tremendous asset. And we expect him to come back sooner than later.”
Price dressed last Friday but did not get on the field, having been sidelined since a bone bruise in his foot suffered during the first half of the season-opener against Sherman.
“He’s practicing. Some things he can do; some things he can’t,” Rogers said. “He’s going to dress out. He improved from Monday to Tuesday, so we’ll see.”
Junior Asa Osbourn would get a bulk of the carries again if Price is unavailable with senior Lowellaus Bowman moving up the depth chart.
At quarterback, sophomore Caleb Heavner gets the nod with classmate Cooper Mackay elevate to the back-up role. Heavner, who transferred from Durant, played the final quarter after Wimbish exited and completed 6-of-10 passes for 79 yards and a 38-yard touchdown pass to Keegan Pruitt. He attempted one throw, an incompletion, against Sherman.
“His turn to run the show. We like what we’ve seen,” Rogers said. “It’s not just him though. We’ve got to do the stuff we can control better. We’ve got to do a better job on the offense and defensive lines. Can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We don’t have time for it.”
The Jackets are looking to bounce back from the 53-34 loss against Centennial, which is ranked No. 9 in the Dave Campbell’s Class 5A Division II statewide rankings.
Denison was down just 16-14 at half-time before the Spartans scored three times in the first 2:30 of the third quarter — a 60-yard run, a 12-yard fumble return and a 73-yard punt return — to open a deficit the Jackets couldn’t rally from.
Denison did come close, getting within eight points late in the third quarter, but Centennial kept the Jackets at arm’s length.
Wimbish ran 16 times for 112 yards ans a touchdown and was 9-of-14 passing for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Keleon Vaughn had four catches for 58 yards and a TD while Keebler Wagoner and Pruitt had their first varsity touchdowns on second-half catches.
The defense allowed 222 yards rushing and 195 passing but out of those 417 yards on 57 plays, 281 of it came on just six snaps.
The season has already been a success for Lebanon Trail as the Blazers have already surpassed their win total from their inaugural year. In 2018 they opened with a 28-14 victory against Fort Worth Southwest and promptly lost nine straight with only one of the defeats closer than 24 points.
Last year’s match-up against Lebanon Trail was extremely lopsided — the 41-14 Denison win was a 41-0 margin at half-time. The Jackets had a 346-86 yardage advantage through two quarters. The Blazers scored twice in the fourth to get on the board.
Lebanon Trail again opened with a victory over Southwest, 43-18, and then last week topped Fort Worth Arlington Heights, 24-6, to get to 2-0.
Drew Martin threw for 170 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 109 yards and a score.
In the opener, Martin threw for 197 yards and three touchdowns — two to Drew Donley — as he took over the quarterback duties this season.
Martin also leads Lebanon Trail in rushing with 106 yards on 15 carries. Princeton Parker is right behind with 20 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Donley leads the team in receiving with Jason O’Brien and Keaton Belew as the other top targets.
Defensively the Blazers have allowed just three touchdowns — one of Southwest’s scores was on a fumble return. It has been a turnaround for a unit that last season gave up at least 41 points in eight games.
“They’re a lot better,” Rogers said. “They run a bunch. Their linebackers are better, the same kids from last year. They’re fired up about being 2-0.”